Thursday, February 9, 2023

Carousels and Their Little Wars + Giveaway

 By Tiffany Amber Stockton

In January, we took a stroll down the language lane of history with some common catch phrases used today and how they got started. You can read last month's post if you missed it.

Today, we're exploring the world of the always delightful ride called the Carousel. Anita Mae Draper did two posts for this blog several years ago on merry-go-rounds and derby race rides, and the post today fills in more historical gaps.


The concept of circular motion in the movement of goods, water, or in producing force dates back to B.C. times. Carousels using horses got a bit later start.

What would you say if I told you the carousel has actually been around since the 12th century? Your jaw probably just dropped, or your mouth has formed a small "o." Surprising, right? I thought the same thing when I discovered this fact. The 1100's are considered Medieval times. I don't recall seeing a carousel in any of those stories of King Arthur or Robin Hood or any castle settings. How in the world could such a quaint little carnival ride be this old?

That's easy. The carousel first made its appearance in Turkey and the Arabic region over in the Middle East. It started as a game--albeit a serious one--where horseman tossed clay balls doused in an enormous amount of perfume at each other. Whoever didn't catch the ball had to live with that strong smell until the next time they took a bath. For most of us today, that would be immediately. However, this is medieval times, when bathing wasn't exactly common. :) I would venture to guess that perfume was a rather precious commodity, and this "Little War" as it was called might have been designed intentionally.

Crusaders from Italy and Spain stumbled upon this game and decided to carry the tradition back to their home countries in Europe. The Italians dubbed it "Carosella," which directly translates the original name. Spain referred to it as "Guerrasilla," but when it spread to France, it received the name by which we call it today: Carrousel (only minus one 'r').

In France, the game took on a rather extravagant indulgence. French nobility quickly adapted this clay ball game to their existing war games on horses--including a ring-lancing game--where both riders were dressed to the nines while on horseback. I don't know about you, but riding a horse is challenging enough, let alone dressed in full formal attire. Have you seen the aristocratic fashions of those centuries? I'll take my jeans, plaid shirt and boots over all those fabrics and layers. :)

Anyway, play continued like this for the next 500 years until the 1600s, when they experimented with mechanical or wooden models of horses mounted on spokes originating from a centralized post. They used these models to practice as a way to reduce injury and still enjoy the game. The circular movement was achieved through the use of mules, real horses, and sometimes human labor. Some models were even elaborately designed or custom crafted. That's frivolous aristocracy for you! Luxurious diversions solely for the purpose of entertainment and often at the expense of someone else.

Eventually, the craftsmanship and intricate detailing attracted visitors simply coming to view the artisan's work. In 1729, a British poet added the name "merry-go-round" to the entertaining display, as viewers took pure pleasure and delight in coming to see them. Their popularity spread throughout Europe, and before long, people were wanting to ride the horses themselves.

With the invention of the steam engine around 1870, the availability of more elaborate decorations increased the attraction. Factory manufacturing made them easier to assemble, and their placement as a feature in carnivals or festivals led to widespread popularity all around the world.


* What is your favorite carousel and where is it located? It could be one you've ridden in another state that left a lasting impression.

* Do you know the name of the British poet who coined the "merry-go-round" name? Who is it?

* If you had to be hit with a perfumed clay ball, what would your preferred scent be?

** Please do not reply via email with any comments. View the blog online and scroll down to the comments section.

Leave answers to these questions or any comments you might have on this post in the comment box below. For those of you who have stuck around this far, I'm sending a FREE autographed book to one person every month from the comments left on each of my blog posts. You never know when your comment will be a winner! Subscribe to comments so you'll know if you've won and need to get me your mailing information.

Come back on the 9th of March for my next foray into historical tidbits to share.

For those interested in my "fictional" life as an author and industry news about other authors, subscribe to my quarterly newsletter. Receive a FREE omitted chapter from my book, A Grand Design, just for subscribing!

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also a professional copywriter/copyeditor. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and four cats in southeastern Kentucky. In the 20 years she's been a professional writer, she has sold twenty-six (26) books so far and is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.


  1. Carousels are my favorite carnival ride. When I was growing up, we vacationed in Ocean City, MD each summer, and I would ride the 1912 Hershell-Spillman carousel at least once (more if I could talk my parents into going)

    1. Linda, I feel the same, especially if the carousel is one with historical significance or intricate art and craftsmanship. I grew up not too far from Ocean City, MD myself. We'd go down that way a few times each year, mainly because my mother's family has a pretty big stake in Chincoteague Island a little further south. :) I remember that Hershell-Spillman carousel from our beach stops. Gorgeous!!

  2. My favorite carousel is in Logansport, IN. We lived there when I was a preschooler and it is one where you try to get the brass ring for a free ride.

    I have no idea who the British poet is.

    Preferred scent: vanilla

    1. Lisa, that carousel sounds like so much fun! Not only a ride but a challenge as well. My competitive nature would definitely inspire me to ride and try. :)

      As for the British poet, his name is George Alexander Stevens.

    2. Lisa, congratulations! You're the winner this month of the FREE book. Please email me at legacywithbooks [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address so I can send out your book. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. Carousels are my favorite and I haven't ridden one since I was a little girl and I have no ideal who the British poet is My favorite scent is Hot Maple Toddy! Thank you for this amazing giveaway

    1. Sarah, until I had children, I hadn't ridden a carousel in a lot of years myself. Now, I go with them (even though they're teenagers) and make sure I keep a respectable distance. :)

      The poet is George Alexander Stevens, and that scent of yours? Yum! Sounds deliciously aromatic.

      And keep returning to comment each month on the 9th. You're sure to be a winner soon!